The period 1800-1837 is part of the Georgian era. George III was insane
after 1811, but lived on until 1820. His son the Prince Regent, George,
acted as Regent for nine years of the King's madness, then reigned 1820-1830.
Because of the influence of the Georgian Prince Regent, this is early part of
the C19th is known as The Regency Period, and in costume history
terms the Regency fashion era. Accessories such as those shown on this
page were an essential part of the fashion of the Regency period.
Throughout the Regency Era the lightweight robes needed other
garments or accessories to make the wearer warmer. Tulle shawls which were
delicate and light particularly suited fine evening dresses. White muslin net
shawls embroidered with tambour work were made in Essex where a thriving cottage
industry was set up by a Flemish refugee. Not far away Norwich produced silk
warp and wool weft twill Norwich shawls which were almost Chinese in design.
The warmest Regency era shawls were primarily made from cashmere wool.
Genuine Kashmir shawls
of the most beautiful quality made from very fine wool with woven and
embroidered patterns were considered one of the most useful and attractive
accessories. The draped shawls emphasised the classical effects that women
in Regency England strived for. Taste was
everything to the gentry of the Regency era. Other stoles and long slender scarves were also used, but the
Kashmir shawl was prized.
An example of an oriental influenced shawl in rich golden hues is shown in the header
painting of Madame Recamier. Madame Recamier was a famous French beauty of her
day - celebrity is nothing new!
Changing tastes in fashion through the Regency period meant the fashionable way of wearing Kashmir shawls changed with the years.
Right - Fashion plate showing woman wearing a shawl folded in half in 1801.
Left - Two decades later this Regency fashion plate of 1820 shows the lady wearing her shawl as
a stole. The swirling Paisley pattern features as a strong border on both
the dress and the stole.
Eventually the shawls
were copied by manufacturers in Britain and especially by the towns of Paisley
and Norwich. Paisley made reversible shawls. Firstly they were woven, but later
to cut costs and beat competition Norwich started to print the shawls.
The Regency era had an endless supply of fascinating headwear that became
more and more outrageous as the era moved on.
When the C19th began a wide range of hats from small caps to enormous ribbon festooned bonnets.
turbans, feather trimmed satin jockey hats and poke bonnets were all part of
Regency gentlewoman's wardrobe. At night exotic turbans were usually seen. The white
satin mameluke turban was trimmed with an ostrich feather and worn early on in
1804. An example is shown to the right below.
Above - Caps and turbans from 1800, 1801,1806 and 1807.
In 1800 caps were worn mostly in the day by older ladies, then in the
1820s young people generally wore them in the day. Some references hint that
the morning cap of white cotton covered up paper tied ringlets for release later
in the afternoon.
Poke bonnets like these above right and circa 1816/17 had a soft
crown and could be called a capote. Firmer crowned bonnets trimmed with ribbons,
feathers, frills and sometimes flowers shown left soon got larger. The
variety and range of trimmings can be fascinating and is always a source of joy
when studying Regency era fashion plates.
At the height of the Regency era
and beyond 1815 the bonnet
size increased until the crown was very big
and culminated in the Leghorn style shown right. The name comes
from the leghorn straw used. Fabrics such as taffeta silk were ruched and
pleated to make flowerpot style hats with wide deep brims.
Right - Romantic Leghorn Hat
For reproducing hats today use plastic hat blocks called Hat Shapers and for lots
of information on hats, visit Carol Marston's
Throughout the late Georgian fashion era ladies wore a limited amount of jewellery. They
liked dainty necklaces and other pieces including combs of jewelled hair
ornaments all modelled on original Greek items. Braided hair
was dressed with combs as show in the illustration above of Grecian
influenced hairstyles. these date at 1804.
Right - Ornamental Hair Comb
The women kept hair shorter and cleaner, but enhanced with false ringlets, an
ideal style to show off earrings.
After the coronation of Emperor Napoleon and Empress Josephine when the
splendid, reset, French royal family jewels were worn, matching jewel sets
once again gained popularity.
As the Regency progressed hairstyle became much more elaborate and so did the
The reticule bag was a
new accessory in the late 1790s because before then, women had carried their pockets about
their waist when their gowns had been large enough to hide them. The advent of
slender columns of muslin meant that pocket purses could be seen beneath
dresses and so the reticule came into fashion.
Left - Reticule Handbags and Purses.
Reticules were pretty
small decorative purse like bags, similar to an evening bag of today and they held a
Some had steel hoops which gave a concertina like framed
effect. Still others might be steel mesh trimmed with Pailettes and steel fringe beading. Others might be circular with ribbon drawstrings and feather trimmed.
Drawstring reticule styles have always been popular since they are easy to
self craft. C19th magazines intended for gentlewomen who could read, supplied plenty of how-to ideas for ladies to pass away
their days making needlecraft items for personal use.
The handbag as we know it today was established in the Regency era. By the 1820s the reticules had
become proper handbags either soft drawn up leather or rigid and buckled hard
leathers or decorative materials.
Folding small fans, and shot silk or taffeta parasols
with ivory handles were used as decorative, rather than functional accessories
in the early C19th and through the Regency.
By the Victorian era parasols were often larger as they were by then more
utilitarian and designed to protect the face from sunburn since a suntan was a common
vulgar look for a real gentle lady.
Fur muffs were a strong fashion accessory of 1800, but not of the true
Regency period. By 1811, the massive huge fur, feather or
shirred silk muffs which began the C19th disappeared totally ending the
fashion with smaller rounder muffs. But by the nature of the muff there is
always some volume.
Left - 1804 Fashion accessory - Huge dark fur muff, probably beaver and a pale fur tippet for the
The tippet was a long slender boa fashion accessory used to wrap the neck
area. It was worn at various times, by all classes, at some time in the 19th
century. By the end of the century it took on a 'gaiety' girl effect,
especially when made from inferior materials.
It was a fancy version of the scarf and could be made of swansdown or fur.
Worn initially by the gentlewoman of c1800 it was eventually favoured by poorer
woman of the 1890s.
Right - A Swansdown Tippet Worn With Above Elbow Evening Gloves.
Cloaks and mantles or
were three quarter length or full length.
Winter cloaks like this red cloak mantle of 1827 left were fur lined.
About 1808 the Witzchoura
mantle a fashion from Poland was a fur trimmed three quarter length mantle
with wide open sleeves. This is true Regency fashion.
Far Right - Blue fur trimmed Witzchoura mantle of 1821.
Left - A Witzchoura Mantle from the Regency Era 1821.
Below - Witzchoura
Mantle from the later Romantic Era showing actual lines and a fashion plate of
1835 showing a brown mantle. The sleeves show mantle development in line
with the huge sleeves of the 1830s Romantic era. The look has more relationship
with later Victorian fashions.
The flat or low heeled
pump that replaced 18th century heeled shoes was an accessory fashion for forty years in
Great Britain. throughout the Regency era the shoe was often trimmed with a bow or rosebud.
These shoes were made of soft kid,
cloth or silk and were very flimsy, so wore out easily. They were
basically little more than ballet slippers. The flat sandal sometimes
had ribbon ties that were crossed over the leg reaching to the calves. They were almost too fragile to wear and were mainly worn in the evenings or
indoors. The half boot was worn for outdoors.
Above - Dainty slipper low pump shoes of 1807.
Then about 1810 as the true Regency era began, the
flat soled boot was worn by fashionable women for general wear. These were
attractively made of coloured leather or leather and fabric or the same fabric as
pelisses. In a short time boots became so usual that even bride's boots and
dancing boots were made. Proper walking for gentle ladies other than in landscaped
gardens was unknown. Pumps were not made for anything other than a tiled promenade.
1800s Style Contribution to Fashion Accessories of Today
Several of the accessory items on this Regency page are still some of most used
accessories today. Many have come in and out of fashion as new styles arise. Yet, some accessories are enduring for their utility whilst managing to combine
daintiness and prettiness within the item.
Pashmina shawls plain and patterned
have become a fashion classic. Hair ornaments - barrettes and decorated combs
continue to be useful. Short and long tippets regularly appear each winter
as that exotic cover up that both keeps the wearer warm and nods to fashion.
Some fashions like the umbrella became totally utilitarian for twenty years
contracting and shortening until they are frequently no more than 6 inches in
length. But now they are being hailed as fashion accessory again and pagoda
style versions also very popular in the 60s have once again re-emerged.
Flat ballet shoes were all the modern rage 200 years later in the noughties, but most enduring of
all is the reticule bag accessory. The small dainty evening bag has never really gone out of
fashion. It is always a must-have accessory for any special occasion and the
finishing touch. Fascination with the reticule has been intense in the past 5
years with the minaudière reaching a new generation. Re-enactors will always find these simple accessories available in
fashion stores today, making dressing up in the world of Regency England or Jane Austen so much
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